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Tour an Earthship

This week’s cover story in the Indy pertains to a new housing development, east of Colorado Springs, which will be modeled after a popular Taos, N.M. tourist stop: the Greater World Earthship Community.

A cluster of Earthships — off-grid, sustainably built habitats that are constructed in harmony with nature — should pop up here as soon as spring, 2015.

You can read the full story in our print edition, but should you desire to take an interior tour of some Earthships, watch this slideshow of images taken by Kirsten Jacobsen of Earthship Biotecture, compiled by Indy online content coordinator Craig Lemley.

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7 Good Reasons To Consider Calling An Earthship Home

An earthship is a type of passive solar home made from natural and recycled materials. What’s incredible about them is how luxurious they can be, but how practical and environmentally friendly they are. These are the ideal homes to build if you want to live off the land and off the grid. Here are 7 good reasons to consider calling an earthship home.

1. Earth Ships just kinda kick ass

I mean, just look at it! Who wouldn’t want to live there. It might be made in part from garbage, but it has a pretty amazing feel. I can say for sure that I wouldn’t mind living in one of these homes.

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Earthship ‘biotecture’ stays comfy without utilities

TAOS, N.M. —from http://www.ksl.com/?nid=1012&sid=29474554

If you landed in the desert surrounding this north-central New Mexico town, you might at first think you had landed on another planet.

In a sprawling development a few miles northwest of town, the architecture is so wild and futuristic that it could just as easily be a colonial outpost on the moon.

Yet the homes are largely made of trash, and all are designed to be totally self-sufficient without hookups to any utilities.

It’s a home design know as the Earthship, and the guru who developed it into a distinctive vision of the future will soon be spreading his gospel to Utah.

“It’s a vessel that sails on the seas of tomorrow,” Earthship founder Michael Reynolds said in a recent interview.

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Experience Earthship living

Separating aluminum, paper and plastic trash for recycling is the kind of green most people are familiar with.In the Greater World Earthship Community, everything from the rooftop rainwater catching system to the indoor vegetable garden to the passive solar architecture is of the extreme shade of eco-consciousness.

Raoul the toad hops out of a bedroom and across the flagstone hallway to his home. He lives in a long strip of dirt, gravel and sophisticated water filtration system that give life to banana plants, grape vines, tomatoes, chili peppers, herbs, houseplants and small creatures. In the enclosed foyer beyond the front door, a small lizard seeks warmth from the adobe walls.

Outside, the night sky looks wide and deep, like the ocean, with stars as big as whales. No street lights or power lines mar the landscape.

The quietude extends inside the home, which is decorated with fresh flowers snipped from the live plants. It seems to pulse not with electricity sizzling through its core, but with its own energy.

This is the Euro, one of several rental homes at Earthship Biotecture. A one-story, three-bedroom, two bathroom home with a horizontal hall giving way to each of the rooms, the layout takes some time to get used to. So do the relatively dim lights, unfamiliar gurgling of the water filtration system after the toilet or sinks are used, the absence of a power-hogging microwave and dual water spigots at sinks. One is for drinking and cooking and the other for washing dishes and hands.

All in all, the necessary comforts are all there, and Earthship living elevates the ecological mind and spirit. Here’s what some recent visitors had to say in the guest book on the coffee table in the Euro’s living room.

“It makes it clear to me how wasteful I am in my ordinary life,” wrote a man from Los Angeles, Calif.

“Positive energy,” “comfortable accommodations” and “a modern feel” were other observations.

To check out the rentals, go to http://earthship.com, or call 1-575-751-0462.

 

Located about 15 miles from Taos, N.M., the nation’s first subdivision of Earthships – homes made of dirt-rammed tires, discarded glass bottles and thick adobe – rises out of the desert like a mirage.

But this is no fleeting illusion. Earthship Biotecture, which is the company behind the Earthship, is steadily marching toward its goal of changing the world with radical yet efficient designs that enable people to not only build houses out of what many consider garbage, but also live off the electrical grid – all in an oasis of comfort.

Harmony in housing

“It’s everything people want, as far as amenities, without the constant bills. It’s freeing. It’s like the true American dream,” says Griffin Davis.

For the past year, Davis has been studying building techniques as an intern at Earthship Biotecture, which is part of the Greater World Earthship Community, a subdivision founded in 1994 by New Mexico-resident Michael Reynolds. He’s considered the guru of taking the Earthship model beyond the norm of using recycled and natural materials in construction to complete lifestyle sustainability.

“I’ve been fascinated with the idea,” said Rob Lamborn, a Fort Carson soldier who recently stopped by Earthship Biotecture’s visitors’ center near Taos. “It’s a miraculous concept: Out of waste materials you can easily provide your own shelter, power, water and food supply.

“It’s also visually stunning, being in harmony with the natural environment in a self-sustaining building with no grid infrastructure.”

The visitors’ center, which attracts as many as 100 people a day from around the nation, is a working model. The company also offers training for anyone interested in learning how to build an Earthship. And it supplies teams that do “humanitarian builds” of Earthships for people in struggling countries such as Haiti and Malawi, and others in need, including Hurricane Katrina victims.

“It’s not the answer to all our problems, but I feel like it’s a means to getting there,” Davis said. “You can throw in words like ‘sustainable’ and ‘green,’ but what it really is, is logical. It just makes sense.”

The ABCs of Earthships

The subdivision, just past the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, has 70 Earthships with space for a total of 130. The 663-acre site also includes 2 acres of experimental projects, decreed by state law in 2007.

Davis said Reynolds told legislators, in appealing for his cause, “You let people test an atomic bomb in New Mexico, and you won’t let me have 2 acres of sustainable testing?” Among the experiments are one-room “simple survival” units, which Davis calls “basically like camping with walls.” The basic, no-frills structures cost $15,000 to $25,000 to build and feature mud floors, automotive power converters, film solar strips on the roof, a bucket-flush commode, a worm digester for cleansing sink water, a gravity shower and a greenhouse.

The subdivision also has several furnished Earthships that can be rented for a night or extended stays, which last year earned it a spot on online travel site TripAdvisor’s Top 10 quirkiest U.S. lodging properties.

Reynolds’ Earthships meet local building codes. There are various floor plans – from luxury mansions to studio homes – but all designs contain these key elements:

– Natural and recycled materials: Old tires, empty food and drink bottles and cans, dirt, mud, sand and straw form exterior and interior walls and arches. Wood, rocks, concrete and mesh complete the structural components.

– Water harvesting: Rain and snow is captured on the roof and channeled through silt catches into buried cisterns. The water is gravity-fed into a pumping and filtering system that supplies code-required water pressure and clean water for drinking, cooking and bathing. A communitywide well connection is available as a backup source and for fire protection. One inch of water yields two-thirds of a gallon on 1 square foot of roof. Therefore, a 2,000-square-foot roof nets about 10,500 gallons of water a year for saving and recyling.

– Sun and wind power: Horizontal wind turbines and passive solar systems that rely on rechargeable batteries mean no connection to the electrical grid is needed. Enough power is generated to provide lights, required electrical outlets, Wi-Fi connection and television.

– A contained, on-site sewage treatment system: Rubber-lined planters treat filtered rainwater that has been used in sinks and showers. Solar pumps recirculate and plant roots oxygenate the gray water and clean it enough so that it can used again, this time for flushing toilets. Dirty toilet water flows outside to a septic tank and leach field. The filtered water can be used for outdoor landscaping.

– Food production: Abutting the home’s solar panels is a tropical garden with vegetables, fruit trees and other plants that cleanse shower and sink water (and also ingest it) to create a balanced ecosystem. Homes can have ponds with fish, such as tilapia. Succulent plants help eliminate odors.

– Passive thermal heating and cooling dynamics: A series of hand-operated vents, dampers, skylights and solar windows help keep the house at the desired temperature daylong and year-round. “When it’s below zero in the winter, it’s still 72 degrees inside, with no furnace,” Davis said.

The heating, cooling and water filtration systems rely on gravity and the forces of nature to operate, a throwback to the way homes used to be built.

“In the late 1800s, buildings used solar lighting and contained thermal mass, but in the 1940s and ’50s, buildings started to change to be more reliable on mechanical systems,” he said. “Biotecture is achieving sustenance through encountering natural phenomena – sun, wind, water, earth, gravity.”

The cost of saving the planet

Building an Earthship costs about 20 percent more per square foot than a conventional house, said Kirsten Jacobsen, education director for Earthship Biotecture. In the Taos area, that translates to about $215 per square foot. In the Pikes Peak region, it would be about $128.50, according to figures from Pikes Peak Regional Building Department.

“The crucial difference being that with a conventional house, you are constantly paying to heat, cool and get electricity to the home,” Jacobsen said. “With an Earthship, all the independent systems that make the home not need utility bills are included in the price of the building.”

Earthships also are artistic, Davis points out. Colored bottles that previously contained water, wine, beer, iced tea, hot sauce, pickles, olives and other products form rainbow patterns on walls and let light in. Unique tile designs on floors and adobe also are eye-catching.

Combine all that with the indoor greenhouse, and “it’s like your home is alive,” Davis said.

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8 Lessons to Help You Prepare for Your Earthship Build

from valhallamovement.com

1. Research the construction codes and regulations in your area

It is absolutely CRUCIAL to understand what your team needs. Do they need a toilet on the land itself? A spot for camping and making fires? How many meals a day will you be providing? If you are also facing land limitations, then make sure you have a back-up plan. Being able to go to the bathroom during a long hard day of work is not to be taken lightly! Read More

Work continues at Cronk tire house

After more than four years of construction, work continues at the Lorraine, NY home of the Cronk family. The house is made primarily of tires, which collecting heat during the day and release it at night.

The house is a kind of Earthship, a green building initiative that reuses discarded materials. About 7,000 glass wine and liquor bottles have also been used decoratively around the home.

The home has a deadline to be finished by Halloween 2015.

How to Make Bottle Bricks

A quick and easy guide to building with glass bottles.

bottle-bricksRecycling glass bottles is a great way to create a stunning and unique wall in your home, shed or garden.

They are easy to make and with such a variety of colours and shapes out there, so many different designs can be made!

This is a building construction style which usually uses glass bottles (although mason jars, glass jugs, and other glass containers may be used also) as masonry units and binds them using adobe, sand, cement, stucco, clay, plaster, mortar or any other joint compound. This results in an intriguing stained-glass like wall. An alternative is to make the bottle wall from glass jugs filled with ink and set them up by supporting them between 2 windows. Read More

Earth Rammed Tire Walls

tire poundedEach year, nearly 300 million tires are disposed of in the U.S. alone. The EPA estimates that markets exist for approximately 80 percent of those tires, leaving an estimated 60 million scrap tires to be stockpiled or landfilled.

Luckily, the market for scrap tires continues to increase. Whether used as fuel, ground and recycled into new products, retreaded or used in civil engineering projects, their rate of recycling and reuse continues to climb.

One such method of reuse is beginning to gain popularity among eco-friendly builders: building with tires.

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Five MORE unforgettable ways to spend $500 in 2015

Earthship Nightly Rentals

Earthy, geeky getaway

So what did you think of “The Interview?” Surely you’re not the only person on the planet without an opinion. Oh, did you take advantage of holiday doorbuster deals last month? And do you have Valentine’s Day plans yet?

Sorry to get your blood boiling in just a few lines of text, but it’s to illustrate a point: The noise is stressing us out! Time to get off the grid. Read More

Easter Island Earthship Academy wraps up session

4 vaultsWork continued this past week on the Easter Island music school.  Tires were pounded for a fourth vault and the vault was installed and plastered.  One room is completely finished and the rest are on their way.  The Earthship Academy students and local volunteers made it possible to do almost twice as much work on the building as originally planned.

Students took their final exam in the classroom which they aced!  Earlier in the week students and crew were treated to a concert by the young music school students from the island.  The concert was wonderful and reminded us all why we chose to be a part of this amazing project!

Michael Reynolds and six Earthship instructors will stay on the island for another 5 work days with some of the remaining Academy students and continue work on the building.  There will be a special inauguration ceremony on December 17th. Read More